Harlem Hospital transformed into a performance space to mark the 40th anniversary of a production that sheds light on life-threatening issues like HIV/AIDS. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
A hospital is probably the last place you would expect to see live theater, but Harlem Hospital proved to be the perfect backdrop for a one-time performance of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow is Enuf.”
It's the 40th anniversary of Ntozake Shange's signature work and the playwright says she's surprised that it's stood the test of time.
"I had no idea that something I wrote would be passed on by generations of women," Shange says.
The choreopoem, as it's known, is a series of emotional monologues that focus on issues specific to African-American women.
The book won rave reviews when it was released in the early 1970s and has been updated to reflect new social issues.
"Ntozake has inserted a poem about HIV, so it makes it extremely current," says Erich McMillan McCall of Project1Voice.
Because this production touches on HIV, Harlem Hospital welcomed the actors into their stunning pavilion and offered free HIV testing for everyone.
"We have an HIV center of excellence here and we promote that any time you enter into the facility, ER, the clinical practice or you're admitted. We offer that to all patients," says Harlem Hospital's Denise Soares.
"Black women are being disproportionately impacted and hopefully this will be an additional way for us to tell the story," says C. Virginia Fields of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.
Tony Award Winning Actress Lillias White was among the impressive group of actors who paid tribute to the 65-year-old playwright.
"She still has that amazing spirit. She might be physically challenged, but her mind is every bit as sharp as it ever was," says mental health advocate Terrie Williams.
"She changed how we looked at ourselves and it just gave us a different view," says Charles Randolph Wright, director of "Motown the Musical."
"It's not amazing to me that it's still valuable and popular today," says Woodie King, Jr., who was an original producer of the play.
This performance was one of dozens held across the city and the world.
They were produced by Project1Voice to show the work continues to give a voice to women who have a quite a story to tell.